Study: Breastfeeding for at least 2 months decreases risk of SIDS
MelissaJenco, News Content Editor
Breastfeeding for at least two months could cut the risk of sudden infant death syndrome
(SIDS) nearly in half, according to a new study.
“Even if mothers are unable to exclusively breastfeed, they can feel reassured that
any breastfeeding provides protection against SIDS to their infants,” authors wrote
in the study “Duration of Breastfeeding and Risk of SIDS: An Individual Participant
Data (IPD) Meta-analysis” (Thompson JMD, et al. Pediatrics. Oct. 30, 2017, https://doi.org/10.1542/peds.2017-1324).
AAP policies note that breastfeeding has been linked to lower rates of SIDS. The Academy recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months and continuation until
the child is at least 1 year.
Rachel Y. Moon, M.D., FAAP, lead author of the AAP SIDS policy, was among the researchers
involved in this new study that set out to look at how long a mother needs to breastfeed
to protect her baby and the impact of breastfeeding exclusively. The team looked at
eight studies from around the world involving 2,267 SIDS cases and 6,837 control infants.
Univariate analysis found breastfeeding had a protective effect against SIDS even
for small amounts of time, but the multivariable analysis showed the effect began
at two months and increased over time. Adjusted odds ratios were 0.91 for those breastfed
less than two months, 0.6 for those breastfed two to four months, 0.4 for four to
six months and 0.36 for over six months.
“It is thus important that public health messages about SIDS risk reduction emphasize
that breastfeeding, if it is to be protective, must continue for at least 2 months,”
Breastfeeding exclusively did not provide more protection than partial breastfeeding,
despite the team’s previous research to the contrary.
Authors said it was unclear why breastfeeding protected infants from SIDS but discussed
several possibilities, including better arousal from sleep in breastfed babies. Breast
milk also boosts infants’ immune systems and supports their brain development.
Data from 2007 showed roughly 89% of infants in the European Union, 85% in New Zealand,
77% in the United Kingdom, 75% in the U.S. and 42% in Ireland had ever been breastfed.
The World Health Organization has set a target of half of infants being exclusively
breastfed for at least six months by 2025.
“Further increases in breastfeeding rates will result in lower infant mortality as
a whole,” authors wrote, “and decreases in SIDS rates, specifically.”